Alignment - Any point to it?

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I've been wondering about this for a while now, there are no spells (to my knowledge) or rituals that can detect evil, or even spells and rituals to harm evil (like smite evil, unless this is still there and I wasn't aware of it), nor is there any weight to being goodly aligned. Back in 3e, alignment affected classes, was open to interaction with spells and could even lose someone the backing of their deity. To try and understand this more, if I left a blank on my alignment choice, when would I notice a backlash from it? It strikes me that I could roll an evil character and play with a goodly aligned group and it wouldn't change a thing (evil is not necessarily the 'stab the party in the back' or '****, pillage and murder on sight', it could simply be an unwavering support for the ideal of law, supporting governments even if those governments support/back slavery, executions of all opposition and state backed attacks on the populace), granted it could create some friction in the group, but nothing gamebreaking.

I saw another thread in which someone was asking about DM enforced alignment change, I was wondering, does it matter if your alignment changes? It just doesn't seem to have any effect on gameplay whatsoever.
With a quick glance at the compendium there are some paragon paths and epic destinies that require a certain alignment.  Beyond that I think it would mostly just be RP consequences.  
What Bronski113 said.  It also matters, in theory, for divine classes in matching up with gods.

I, personally, don't even bother with it.  4e came so very close to finally flushing alignment, it's sad that they didn't finish the job.
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 4E alignment is basically actively choosing a side and putting on the white or black hat. If your character merely has good intentions or is just comfortable with wandering into the darker shades of grey rather than actively trying to be evil, then you write Unaligned on your sheet and don't think about it any further.
As the others have said, outside of a few specific circumstances alignment (whether picking one or changing one) doesn't have any real effect on the game.




 

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The way I see it is that alignments in 4e are a way to encourage Players to think about how their characters see the world and other people.  I think that they are there to remind the player that their character is not just a miserable little pile of stats (and powers, feats ...).

I supose it could be said that this may not be necisarry, players should already be thinking of these things without the prompt of an alignment system, but I guess that it could help point out to players new to role playing games that these things should be considered.

You are correct CyberMastah that alignment was handled differently in 3.5 and had a much larger influence on the game, but overall I think that it's better now that PCs aren't penalized mechanically (loss of class powers) for role playing (which could change an alignment).

One thing that I'm not so content with is the merging of several of the alignments, I feel that the unaligned alignment is so broad that it's almost meaningless in "saying" anything about a character.
The way I see it is that alignments in 4e are a way to encourage Players to think about how their characters see the world and other people.  I think that they are there to remind the player that their character is not just a miserable little pile of stats (and powers, feats ...).

Yes, very much, that is the best use of alignment. Much better than mechanical effects, which usually serve only to restrict the range of characterizations that a mechanically functional character can have.

But 4E has one of the worst alignment systems I've seen in a role-playing game, so I'm particularly glad that it has almost no mechanical effects. I prefer and continue to use the 3E alignment system, which is one of the best I've seen in a role-playing game. (4E did bring in the unaligned neutral, which is a valid option in addition to 3E's philosophical neutral. But it threw out so much larger a range of alignments...)

I supose it could be said that this may not be necessary, players should already be thinking of these things without the prompt of an alignment system, but I guess that it could help point out to players new to role playing games that these things should be considered.

And encourages all other players to think about them a bit more. I think it's particularly helpful for players who aren't good at creating backstory, because it is a little bite-size piece of personality.

(Oddly, though, in my observation the tendency - just a tendency, not a universal rule - is that people who are good at backstory also like alignment, whereas people who struggle with backstory dislike it.)

One thing that I'm not so content with is the merging of several of the alignments, I feel that the unaligned alignment is so broad that it's almost meaningless in "saying" anything about a character.

When I have to use 4E alignments, I almost always use Unaligned because there is no room for Chaotic Good. No, it didn't get absorbed into Good - Good believes that Law is good but the enforcers can become corrupt, while Chaotic Good is more likely to believe that Law is inherently corrupting.

(I submit that each alignment should be stated in two ways: one is objectively, to the extent that such a thing can be achieved; the other is from the perspective of those who hold that alignment and regard it as superior. The Lawful Good would question the dedication of those who are merely Good or merely Lawful, and distrust the Chaotic Good and the Lawful Evil to roughly the same degree. The Good would not like how the Lawful Good compromise with Evil for the sake of Law nor how the Chaotic Good are willing to compromise with Evil to undermine Law; while the Chaotic Good would be suspicious of how the Good are willing to turn to the corrupting influence of Law to gain short-term goals. And so on.)
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No, it didn't get absorbed into Good - Good believes that Law is good but the enforcers can become corrupt, while Chaotic Good is more likely to believe that Law is inherently corrupting.



You're splitting hairs that aren't there.  Both of those philosophies easily fall under the broad umbrella of 'Good'.
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Overall, I dislike the alignment system in 3.X the most, and 4E didn't kill it off enough for my liking (don't know how previous editions did it).

Here's what I don't like about it: It encourages people to compartmentalize character behaviors and outlooks. Only 9 (or 5) broad categories to represent all the myriad of possible moral, psychological, social and physiological factors that determine behavior? No thanks.

I'd prefer it if there was a greater emphasis on character concept or motivation. Those are what really tell somebody else about your character. "Lawful Good" is just so generic and nondescript compared to "Champion of the social structures that exist to protect life and the progress of life" or "Assists all who come seeking my aid and protection".

I am okay with the concept of good, evil, law and chaos being actual tangible forces in the world in high-fantasy campaigns, though. There's literary precedent for it. But defining your character along those axes is limiting.
No, it didn't get absorbed into Good - Good believes that Law is good but the enforcers can become corrupt, while Chaotic Good is more likely to believe that Law is inherently corrupting.

You're splitting hairs that aren't there.  Both of those philosophies easily fall under the broad umbrella of 'Good'.

I've seen that claim quite a few times, and explanations of it several times.

All the explanations boiled down to "but Chaotic Good characters really do love Law, because you can't be Good if you don't."

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
Alignment is quite useless.
Limiting players to acting one way or the other because of a little word (or two) on their paper seems very restricting to me. If they are lawful good, in example, they would never kill a couple of innocents because they didn't want to give them a powerful artifact that's going to help them save the world. Good and evil isn't white and black. Everyone has different opinions of what is good and what is evil, and it changes over time. In the medieval ages torturing a thief was perfectly fine, right now it would be considered inhumane. I don't actively use alignments in my campaign. Sure, all of my players have something written down after the word "Alignment" but it's merely a roleplaying aid so they remember that originally their character wuoldn't kill a child for a couple of gold pieces.


I do recall some trap in Keep of the Shadowfell that triggered if non-evil entities entered it's range, though. 
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*snip*



Actually, I'm fine with judging everybody based on our current relative moral system. Using, "That's how things worked back then" as an excuse is thin and, frankly, idiotic considering that every D&D setting is anachronistic.

I agree with you though that alignment limits players. It doesn't encourage good roleplay, but specific roleplay.
*snip*



Actually, I'm fine with judging everybody based on our current relative moral system. Using, "That's how things worked back then" as an excuse is thin and, frankly, idiotic considering that every D&D setting is anachronistic.


I don't get it. Could you rephrase that please? 

Probably just me, it's 3 am.
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*snip*



Actually, I'm fine with judging everybody based on our current relative moral system. Using, "That's how things worked back then" as an excuse is thin and, frankly, idiotic considering that every D&D setting is anachronistic.


I don't get it. Could you rephrase that please? 

Probably just me, it's 3 am.



"Well, back in the Middle Ages, people did X, Y, and Z, and people were good with it, so therefore it's perfectly acceptable in a D&D game."  He's saying this statement is bull****, and it is.
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I totally agree.

Do note I did not say that (and you probably already did). 
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I totally agree.

Do note I did not say that (and you probably already did). 



At some point you said, "In the medieval ages torturing a thief was perfectly fine, right now it would be considered inhumane."

I misread that, actually. You were using it as an example of mutable moral and ethical codes, not excusing a particular mindset. For that I apologize.
I totally agree.

Do note I did not say that (and you probably already did). 



At some point you said, "In the medieval ages torturing a thief was perfectly fine, right now it would be considered inhumane."

I misread that, actually. You were using it as an example of mutable moral and ethical codes, not excusing a particular mindset. For that I apologize.


Apology accepted. Not that I felt insulted or anything.

If we'd be able to use the past as an excuse for deeds in the present moral evolution would be impossible.

All this talk makes me want to go and think about how I'm going to show the wicked moral system of my setting to my players. They did vote an average of a 8.3 on a scale from 1 to 10 of grittiness of the setting, after all. Now I pretty much have to go for medieval moral system. Or worse.
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Another reason to dislike alignment: It creats a potential point of contention between the player and the DM. To wit: You say your character is Good, because he generally tries to help those less fortunate for him and often turns down rewards or payments just because.

However, a bad streak of luck puts him in unwinnable situations where *somebody* gets hurt, and eventually the DM says, "You're not Good anymore, on account of all the bad you've done."

Changing that to a motivation that reads, "Be a savior for the broken, the beaten and the damned", and the DM can never tell you, "That's not your motivation anymore, on account of all that bad." Only you, as a player, can say when your motivation has changed.
Alighnment is pretty much only left in 4e as a tool for a DM to limit potential of conflict among players by settting a theme by which the players can create characters to fit. A DM can easily say " No evil characters for this campaign" and the players have a pretty good idea of what to create. LFR does this for example. Beyond that, it is just a set of common characteristics like Hair color and height a player can use to craft a character but is not restrictive  as it had been in previous edititons to confine the players when faced with morally ambiguous situations. WotC just left it in to give DMs a tool to guide their campaigns and nothing more. It's up to the individual DM if they want to use this tool like any other.
Alighnment is pretty much only left in 4e as a tool for a DM to limit potential of conflict among players by settting a theme by which the players can create characters to fit. A DM can easily say " No evil characters for this campaign" and the players have a pretty good idea of what to create. LFR does this for example. Beyond that, it is just a set of common characteristics like Hair color and height a player can use to craft a character but is not restrictive  as it had been in previous edititons to confine the players when faced with morally ambiguous situations. WotC just left it in to give DMs a tool to guide their campaigns and nothing more. It's up to the individual DM if they want to use this tool like any other.



You don't need alignment for that, though.  Figuring out what theme a game has is something that should be discussed by everybody before character creation, because it affects more than just alignment.  Things like the setting, for example ... if a game is going to be entirely urban, for example, that should result in a different set of characters than a free-ranging trek across the countryside.
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Yep but it's a simple tool built in to guide new players in those directions. Most experienced players generally disregard Alignment as a rule but I find it still has some influence for may players when engaged in creating a character's personality. Like people in the real world however, no one is all good or all evil and alignment is basically just another fact about your character just like sex or appearance which gives you some idea of how the character fits in the world but is not a constraint to roleplay like it has been in the past.
Thanks for all the info and insight. If I had to choose between two alignment systems I'd go with 3e's 9 alignments that try to cover many varied aspects, to be honest, since there really isn't much stress placed on alignment I may not even bother with it (and paths/destinies that require it, I may look the other way on (although obviously no taking 1 path good and 1 destiny evil)). I won't deny that alignment can't cover the depth of human personalities but is a nice tool for people new to the game, looking for ideas on how to mold their character's traits (when I say new, I mean players who for the most part have silent characters that never talk and are really just waiting out 'boring' gaps between combat encounters (I had a few sessions with players that were like this, almost killed DnD for me)).

Alignment systems in general can (probably) never cater to forming complicated characters, unless you had one system measuring your selflessness/selfishness, another for your mercifulness/unforgivingness, another for your lawfulness/chaoticness, another for how loose or inhibited you are. Even then, are you selfish in giving monetary donations but would have no problem with donating blood? Would you show mercy to a demonic cultist who swears he will change but be unforgiving of a vigilante who's killed innocent people due to lack of information? Would you support law in a country that treats its citizenry like trash but support the people rising up in a country where the technology and educational standards have been so bad that goblins are like an advanced race in comparison? Are you loose enough that you may try seeing what relations with other races like dwarves, mindflayers, vampires and demons are like but have inhibitions against goblins, orcs, dragonborns and gnomes?

An ideal 'alignment' system would be one with so many smaller gauges for all of these differences that it becomes a pain to waste time on, and if it's a pain to waste time on, then why annoy your players with it? An unimportant and broad alignment system allows for players to forego alignments completely or to pick one that in GENERAL sounds like their character. I honestly think that no ideal alignment system can be made without making it more of a pain that it is appreciable (while many (doubt it would be all) players may have fun going through the many options of such a system, most likely a DM who has to know the characters at least won't appreciate going through five characters worth of depth).

Won't deny that unless it can be affected by mechanics (like detect evil or smite evil), then it has no point and I'll go ahead and forego it.
This is a great question. So great, I decided to cover it on my blog, Level & Class. Thanks for the question, and hopefully you find it helpful.
I'll add that it would be extremely unusual that a person would occupy a point on the alignment chart. Most people would be more like an amoeba or neuron - with a blob in one area (not a point, an area) but tendrils reaching out to lots of different places.

Amoeba: t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQxFton...

Neuron: t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS_TSRB...
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
well any alignment would probably look like that, just with 4 axis.


But you would have to make 2such diagrams, one for the actions, on one for how confortable you your self are with the actions you take. One can do evil things to win some good and feel bad about it. Or one can do good things but does it becose of social presure he rather be a selfish a**.
well any alignment would probably look like that, just with 4 axis.


But you would have to make 2such diagrams, one for the actions, on one for how confortable you your self are with the actions you take. One can do evil things to win some good and feel bad about it. Or one can do good things but does it becose of social presure he rather be a selfish a**.


This is an awsome diagram, however I can't read it.  Could you please give a translation of each axis of this diagram?
well the diagram is just an ilustration. it has nothing to do with the diskution. but the titles starting at the top clockwise. Time dependent scalability, Completeness, Easy communicateable (does that exist in english), Easy manageable, Easy realizable.


well the diagram is just an ilustration. it has nothing to do with the diskution. but the titles starting at the top clockwise. Time dependent scalability, Completeness, Easy communicateable (does that exist in english), Easy manageable, Easy realizable.





Thank you for the translations saint-ch.
Personally, I wish they'd axed the Law vs. Chaos spectrum completely, because it's always been so poorly defined. They never could have published an alignment book for Law or Chaos like the Book of Vile Darkness or Book of Exalted Deeds because that would have required them to actually figure out what they meant by Law. Is it following the rules? Having personal discipline? Being organized? Supporting governmental structures? Acting consistently? Depending on which rule book you're reading, you could come to different conclusions.

As others have said already, what's really helpful for getting into your character's philosophy and morality is to ask a few short questions, like "Who do you care about enough to treat with respect and dignity?" or "How far are you willing to go to get what you need? What you want?" Those can't be abbreviated and scribbled onto a line on a character sheet easily, though.
Personally, I wish they'd axed the Law vs. Chaos spectrum completely, because it's always been so poorly defined. They never could have published an alignment book for Law or Chaos like the Book of Vile Darkness or Book of Exalted Deeds because that would have required them to actually figure out what they meant by Law. Is it following the rules? Having personal discipline? Being organized? Supporting governmental structures? Acting consistently? Depending on which rule book you're reading, you could come to different conclusions.

As others have said already, what's really helpful for getting into your character's philosophy and morality is to ask a few short questions, like "Who do you care about enough to treat with respect and dignity?" or "How far are you willing to go to get what you need? What you want?" Those can't be abbreviated and scribbled onto a line on a character sheet easily, though.



Good and evil are in the same boat, as a number of these sorts of threads prove with such delightful questions as 'should we slaughter the baby goblins'.  The whole thing should have been canned with 4e.
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Good and evil are in the same boat, as a number of these sorts of threads prove with such delightful questions as 'should we slaughter the baby goblins'.  The whole thing should have been canned with 4e.



Point well taken, though I've found with gaming groups at least (as opposed to online discussions) that it's usually fairly easy to get a few points of reference down to establish an idea of the morality a particular group/DM runs with. I had a much worse track record in 3.5 trying to convince people that it was stupid that my Bard couldn't be Lawful and that we should do away with those alignment restrictions.

In the end, though, I agree that alignment should have been taken out entirely, grognards be damned. 
In the end, though, I agree that alignment should have been taken out entirely, grognards be damned. 

Hey, I like alignment in general, and I like the 3E alignment system, and I've said it would have been better to actually trash it entirely than to render it trash but then publish it - which is what they did.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
if you talk about morality in a game like this thats fairly pointless.

good and bad in this game are not desided by your actions. its more a question on whos side your on. how many wars where fought with bouth sides thinking there the good guys. basicly histroy tells us thet the winner are the good guys for they shape the perseption of the outcome.

in dnd terms, the good guys are the god's who won and are in charche. every one else who trys to get beck on them is the evile guy.

so you could rename good and bad, into team blue and team red, would have the same effekt.
if you talk about morality in a game like this thats fairly pointless.

good and bad in this game are not desided by your actions. its more a question on whos side your on. how many wars where fought with bouth sides thinking there the good guys. basicly histroy tells us thet the winner are the good guys for they shape the perseption of the outcome.

in dnd terms, the good guys are the god's who won and are in charche. every one else who trys to get beck on them is the evile guy.

so you could rename good and bad, into team blue and team red, would have the same effekt.



Yeah ... disagree with that pretty strongly.  'Siding with the gods' isn't an indication of alignment at all, and neither is 'opposing them' or 'not associating with them at all'.  Just because the victors write the history books doesn't mean they were the good guys.
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well that is disputable, you key of good or bad from morality aka ethics. if that where so in d&d you would have an even bigger problem and would make an even biger case for my argument.

just have a look at human ethics, here in the western world we have some thing that is called commen agreement ethics (dont know if that is the exakt englisch translation), in this form, ethical is what the majority deemed ethical. This ethicel shiftet a lot in the last 100 years. A 100 years ago, the western ethic was strongli influenst by two ethicel systems the romen/helenisical and the christian system. now days the christian ethical system almoste lost its impackt in the socitiy. but even so, you will finde that western ethics are some thimes rather at ods with afrikan or estern ethics. you will finde that thinks with are perfektly fine, even expektet in asia (thought that is shifting to) would be uterly unethicel in the west. like having your son mary some one he does not love just to obey tradition and save the honer of the famili.

a lot of difrenzes are subtle, but thinks like, but thinks like female circumcision, absoluty ethicel and write in northafrika but is considert, Female genital mutilation in the west. so you see what you deem good or bad is keyed of ethics and that in turn is keyed of what the religion says. no to go so far and say that western ethics is good, and estern or african ethics are bad, is to say estern ethics is superior to african or estern ethics.

translate that to the game, what for one god seems good is bad for an other. on each side. in dnd the line between good and bad runs along death and chaos and live and order. but even in the chaos there are sencient beeings that live, and even in death there are sencient beeings that "live" so what makes the one superior to the other? who's to say what is write and wrong, why have the elementals less write to exist then the natural world, why has the demonic hoste less write to be free then anyone in the mortal world. who desides that? the victorios.


So keying alignment implyes ethincs, and in this case western modern ethics. if that is good or bad is all a point of view, for in dnd you dont have an all enconpsing supiror power, you had IO, and for him good and bad are equaly valiuble and have there place, from IO's perspektiv you have almoste an asian kinde of view where yin and yang have to be in balance, many unalined gods enforce exaktly that view, and will try to keep "good" and "evil" in a balance. in dnd good and evil are just two sides of the same coin.
If I remember correctly there are some Artifacts that were created that promote certain behavior, though it does not say anything about alignment.

I play unaligned as much as I can. I once had a character that kept the heads of those he defeated in battle, more of an eccentric bounty hunter. If my DM cared about alignment I would have been marked as evil, since I purposely decapitated an orc general, though his head came in handy to distract a Black Dragon.
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Saint-Ch: None of that real-world stuff has any particular relationship to in-game alignment, and (in 4E, at least) Io is one god among many, who was killed during the Dawn War and splintered into various draconic races and two new gods (Bahamut and Tiamat) - he is not (and was not) an over-arching cosmos-defining deity (unlike some old-E presentations of him).

Likewise, only a small handful of eccentrics qualify as 'unaligned and feel that good and evil need to be kept 'in balance' - most unaligned individuals simply don't care about good or evil. Nor are good and evil cosmic forces that need to be or can be balanced against anything (including each other).

Similarly, gods (and primordials) cover a range of alignments and the gods aren't particularly "the good guys" cosmologically (as they themselves acknowledged when they made their pact with the primal spirits).
N_dragon

kompleetly agree, i just tryed to explain, that the link bettwen moral "right" actions and alignment is not legit. for what is ethical is always in the realworld as it is in the game a point of view. i remember a dragon artikle where diferent sects of ogma where presentet, of the sect activ huntet and destroied  any follower of vecna, while the other colaboretet, bouth had there reasons, directly derived from the dogmas of ogma. what is good and what is bad is a point of view (ethicly) who is good and who is bad is a point of view form the victorios.